George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 24 September 1780

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Camp Orange Town Sepr 24th 1780.


Since I wrote last,1 Major Burnet has returned from Newark, and brings intelligence that the Enemy continue their preparations for a very extensive embarkation, They are collecting their force on Long Island, while a number of transports have fallen down to the watering place, and are preparing for Sea. they have detached near five hundred of the best men from the new levies in garrison at New York, Paulus Hook & Staten Island with orders to join the main Army on Long Island near White Stone.

The Guards 57th and 80th Regts have been relieved from near Fort Kniphausen by the Anspach Regiments and have marched for New York to embark. Admiral Rodney has detached five Ships to join Admiral Arbuthnot off Block Island, the remainder consisting of the Sandwich Alcide Terrible Triumph and Yarmouth remain at the watering place and have been joined by the Rainbow & Romulus. They are repairing the Ships and taking in Stores with all possible expedition and it is expected they will be ready for Sea by the 27th Inst.; they continue to empress men for their fleet.

The reports in the City of N. York are alternately that they are intended for Rhode Island and Virginia.

By the New York paper of the 22d Inst. which I have the pleasure t⟨o⟩ enclose for your Excellency’s perusal it appears they have laid a general embargo on all Shipping; and have placed Lt Colonel Birch in the command of the City, which I think indicates that but a small garrison is to be left.2 These accounts are gene[r]ally confirmed by several deserters from the Fleet and Army, the examination of one of which, I have enclosed.3

I have transmitted the accounts to Congress as they have come to hand.4

The enemy landed a small party at Niack this morning from one of their Ships and attempted to fire the houses; I had detached a guard to that place last evening, which obliged them to retire immediately after having set fire to the house of Major Smith, which was consumed.5 I am with great respect and esteem. Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant.

Nath. Greene M. General

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, NjP: De Coppet Collection.

2The enclosed newspaper has not been identified.

Samuel Birch became lieutenant colonel of the British 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons in May 1772. He gained notoriety among Patriots for depredations, led an abortive operation to capture GW in February 1780, and was promoted to colonel that November. Subsequently made a brigadier general, Birch emancipated slaves in New York City who went to Nova Scotia in 1783 and founded Birchtown (see Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles description begins Maya Jasanoff. Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. New York, 2011. description ends , 172).

3The enclosed report is dated Sunday, 24 Sept.: “John Millener of the 80th regt who deserted from it on the night of the 23d from Fort Washington informs—that the Guards, 80th, 82d, 76th, and some Heshian Corps, are to embark at New York to morrow—either for Virginia or Rhode Island that the baggage of the Guards went on board on Friday that of the 80th Regt on thursday—but the baggage of the other corps he does not know when. That the transports lay he believes in the East River, and that the Anspach Regts were to relieve the 80th Regt at Fort Washington” (DLC:GW).

4See GW to Greene, 16 Sept., and n.3 to that document.

5John Smith (c.1744–1833) of Nyack, N.Y., became a militia major in August 1778. His large stone house survived into the twentieth century (see Tompkins, Rockland County description begins Arthur S. Tompkins, ed. Historical Record to the Close of the Nineteenth Century of Rockland County, New York. Nyack, N.Y., 1902. description ends , 442–44).

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